Intraspecific interference among larvae in a semivoltine dragonfly population

P. H. Crowley, P. M. Dillon, D. M. Johnson, C. N. Watson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


This study focuses on ways that the size distribution of individuals influences the types and intensities of competitive interactions within a population of aquatic arthropod predators. Three field experiments and one laboratory experiment were designed to test for feeding interference, interference mortality, and dispersal effects within and between larval size classes of the primarily semivoltine dragonfly Tetragoneuria cynosura in Bays Mountain Lake. One field experiment documented the temporal pattern of colonization of large-mesh cylinders by the small, first-year-class larvae during a 30-day period; the results are consistent with passive (density-independent) colonization. A second field experiment examined the effect of large, second-year-class larvae at densities of 1 or 3 per cylinder (14 or 42 m-2) on colonization by small larvae; this colonization was inhibited at the high density of large larvae. In the laboratory experiment, when larvae of the two size-classes were together in the same aquarium, small larvae moved around less than when by themselves (dispersal inhibition). Thus the inhibition of colonization observed in the field may result from interference mortality, rather than from a flight response to the presence of larger conspecifics. To evaluate this interpretation, the third field experiment measured the in-situ functional response of large larvae to each other and to their small conspecific prey. Results suggest a type 1 (linear) functional response, with feeding inteference among large larvae. Moreover, the interference mortality inflicted by larger larvae on smaller conspecifics was apparently more intense on larger individuals within the small size-class. Taken together, the three field experiments and a statistical power analysis show how colonization and interference interact to determine the local density of small larvae, and why such interference effects are difficult to detect experimentally in the field.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)447-456
Number of pages10
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 1987


  • Benthos
  • Cannibalism
  • Competition
  • Field experiment
  • Odonata
  • Predation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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